On January 26, 1598, amid embraces and farewells, Governor Juan de Onate left Santa Barbara, in present day Chihuahua, leading an expedition bound for New Mexico. Nearly 600 settlers accompanied him, along with Mexican Indian allies and Franciscan friars. In a great cloud of dust, the slow-moving oxen-pulled carreta caravan creaked through the Valley of San Bartomlome, sending its way northward.
Driving thousands of sheep, pigs, goats, cattle, mules and horses before them, men, women, and children overcame the hardships of the next seven months on the jornada. Scouts wandered far ahead of the wagon train searching for a route with adequate water and pasturage. For months on end, the desert air resounded with sharp cracks from whips of drovers who pushed the caravan farther into the tierra adentro. In late April, as they approached the Rio Grande near a place they called El Paso, light snow fell and a cool wind swept the Chihuahuan desert.
By mid-June, the Spanish frontiersmen had reached Socorro, where, in need of food, they traded with the Pueblo of Teypana. Slowly, their carretas rolled northward, passing through the valley of present-day Albuquerque, along the route that became El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, the Royal Road of the Interior, which originated in Mexico City.
Over seventy-five miles in advance of the wagon train, on July 4, 1598, Onate and sixty horsemen reached San Juan Pueblo. Nearby, they established the first capital of New Mexico, which they named San Juan de Caballeros. By mid-August, the rest of the founding settlers of New Mexico arrived with sixty-one carretas. That summer, the first of many Hispanic settlements in New Mexico had been established. The heroic Jornada of 1598 to New Mexico is an important part of our national story.